Tuesday, November 30, 2010

To teach is to learn twice. ~Joseph Joubert, Pensées, 1842

I know it may sound kind of strange to some of you, but, until recently, I have never considered being a teacher. Well, yeah, when I was a kid, but not seriously. I originally decided to study Spanish and International Studies, with minors in French and German, to be able to market myself well to foreign relief services. I have always enjoyed helping people, so I figured this would be the best way to do it. This option is still not out of my mind. However, I have noticed a trend recently. Wherever I go, literally wherever, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Italy, God has given me opportunities to teach. It doesn't have to be in a classroom atmosphere. For example, in Mexico, I sprained my ankle the second to last day that we were in the village of La Morita, putting in the foundations for a church. I couldn't do much to help, so what I did do was have the local children teach me words in Spanish, and I would say what they were in English. We all had a great time. I think the kids were just thrilled that, this time, THEY were the teachers. Sometimes, I think that is the best way to teach. Have the children teach you, since they will, in turn, learn the subject matter better themselves. Plus, the teacher always ends up learning something too.

Here in Spain, I have 2 students. Henar is 12, and Teresa is 9. They both come from different families and have different interests. Henar loves music, plays the contra bass (kind of like a cello), and loves teaching me card games. Teresa, on the other hand, is a little shy, but loves sports, math, science, and loves to smile. I gave her some of those snapz bracelets that are all the craze now, and her face literally lit up. Especially once I told her they were from the States. Teresa's mom tells me that she just adores me. I seriously don't know why. I just go, do my job, and enjoy it.

Their respective families have been so welcoming to me as well. Teresa's family has invited me to eat with them once a week; one meal to speak in Spanish, and the next week's meal to speak in English. They have both invited me to do things with them for Christmas, and talk about sending me packages once I get back to the States. I joke that I have three families here: my host family, Henar's family, and Teresa's family. I am totally okay with that. I think it helps me learn more of the culture, of cooking, of the language, and of the dynamic of families in different cultures.

So I teach Henar twice a week (usually) and Teresa once a week. Then I also go to her family's house for supper one night a week. On top of all that, and my own classes, I go to an elementary school once a week. It is the school of my host mother's niece, Maria, who is 8. I speak a half an hour in one classroom, and then speak another half an hour in a another classroom. Well, I don't really speak, as the children as me questions. A few of my favorites include:

"What is your favorite sport?" (I'm not a sports person)

"What is your favorite food?" (So hard to decide...)

"Have you met Justin Bieber?" (No.)

"Have you met so-and-so from the Lakers?" (No. I have to explain that America is very big so it is difficult to meet everyone)

"What is your favorite Spanish soccer team?" (I have to explain that soccer isn't as big a deal in the States as it is here)

The most popular one? "Do you have a boyfriend?"

These are all from 4th and 5th graders. I walk out smiling after every class, just because I get so happy just being around the children and teaching them words. They love the fact I have a bearded dragon, that I have traveled, and that I love the LEGO video games.

Today, when I went, there was a miscommunication. The teachers thought that I was in Germany. So the kids didn't know I was coming.

I felt like a rock star. "DOKIA! HOLA DOKIA!!"

Made me feel really special. I needed that too, since I have had a problem with a professor here. But that is a whole other story. Maybe next blog post.

Anyway, two girls in one of the classes found out I actually do speak Spanish. (Previously, the teachers had told their students that I don't understand Spanish, so they have to speak English). I told them it is a secret though. Just between me and them. Their faces just lit up. A secret with the teacher! How special are we!

So I think God is showing me that maybe I am supposed to be a teacher. What do you think?

Snowflakes are kisses from heaven. ~Author Unknown


I looked at my host mother, Begona's face. The excitement present in her eyes was slightly bewildering, as I sat with my spoonful of yogurt half way to my open mouth.

"It snowed last night!!"

Obviously she didn't hear the night before. I was SO excited. I wanted to run to their rooms, and be like 'IT'S SNOWING!' But I decided that I might scare them if I did so. Instead I took pictures and shared my excitement via Messenger with my boyfriend. And all my facebook friends. :P

Funny thing is, they had a huge snowstorm back home in Fargo. Lots of snow, ice...classes canceled, which is always a big deal in Fargo.

I love snow; always have. Though I tend to get sick of it around the end of March. The way it seeps into your socks, no matter what kind of boots you wear. The challenge that you undertake every time you need to drive somewhere. How ugly it looks when it is melting, with the sand underneath making it look like white mud. However, I just love the beauty of it falling, and how quiet the world seems to get. It is as if the world stops, just to contemplate the wonder of whiteness that is falling from the sky.

I am going to Germany tomorrow, and am terribly excited. I am excited to spend time with Dan and Sarah again, enjoy Gluwein, but also...to romp in the snow a bit. Yes, romp; in the snow, I tend to be like a puppy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

4 Stories: Old Photos

Next 4 Stories installment from Freckled Nest!

I. Childhood Boredom

I have always been obsessed with taking pictures. When I was younger, and bored, I would take my mom's camera and take pictures of my room. I have pictures of my Garfield collection, of my bed, of my books, of my toys... Yeah. Kinda funny.

II. "A picture is worth a thousand words"

If you haven't realized it by now, I love taking pictures when I travel. I think it is the best way to show friends and family my experiences. I also LOVE taking travel pictures that have stories behind them. "After this picture, I tripped." "This is the Mexican doctor I had to visit when I sprained my ankle in Mexico." I think the best part of pictures are the stories that lie behind them.

III. National Geographic

I LOVE NG for the photography. On their website, they have a section called 'Your Shot'. I have always wanted to submit a picture and get it picked by others to be in the NG magazine. However, there are many talented people out there who have better cameras, so I may just have to wait. However, I just love looking at the way other people look at life.

IV. Scrapbooking

I think if you love photography, most often you are also a scrapbooker. They kinda go hand in hand. I love scrapbooking. However, I try to make the page compliment the pictures, or tell the story that is being told in the pictures. For this reason, it takes me a long time to scrapbook. I have a hard time just throwing pictures on a page and leaving it. The page has to reflect the pictures, the story, and the environment in which the picture was taken.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. ~Irish Proverb

 Before I left for Germany, I was stressed and tired. I missed home terribly, was frustrated with classes, and was just ready to hear something other than Spanish. I needed a vacation, a rest, a time to just relax and be myself. God gave me that opportunity when I went to visit my good friend Sarah and her husband in Germany. He is there in the AF for the US military, and they have lived there for about 2 years now. I was their first visitor. Poor people :P

I was supposed to arrive at about 10pm. However, with the delays with the French air strike that had happened the day before, the flight was delayed. I ended up flying in at about midnight. I almost missed the flight too! In Madrid, they don't announce when they are boarding or changes about a flight. They just let you find out after you have been waiting. So I had been sitting and reading another book by Carlos Ruis Zafon (one of my new favorite authors), when I had to go to the bathroom. I walked by and noticed that my flight was finishing boarding! I quickly grabbed what I needed and stood in line. I got to know some nice French people. This woman just wowed me. She teaches English in France, I think, but also spoke Spanish fluently too! I want to be like her when I grow up.

Poor Dan and Sarah. They had to drive an hour to get me, and then we had to drive an hour back to their place. We were all tired, but we laughed a lot. Once we got back, I got to take an American shower. That is to say, I was able to leave the nice warm water running. Here, in my host family's house, I have to turn the water off when I am soaping up or whatever. It was SO nice. Then I got to sleep in a nice American bed. It was weird sleeping without noise outside my window though :P

The next morning, we kinda took it easy. We talked about their upcoming trip to Spain, like where they wanted to go, what I said they HAD to eat (queso manchego, sangria, bread...), warned them about the different coffee, and places they had to visit in Barcelona. Then we decided, after Sarah and I had 2 cups of coffee (we were happy), all three of us went to Uli's Gut Stub: Restaurant and Car Wash. I was like, I speak German, I should be able to order. But the only thing that came out was Spanish, with a mixture of English. Poor waitress, probably thought I was on drugs or something. When I did speak German, it was mixed with Spanish, and probably had a Spanish accent. But the food was delicious! Then we went to the Wasgau Grocery store, to get Gluewein (wine you drink after heating it up = AWESOME), beer, and stuff for the next day. Then we went to Bernkastel Kues.

It is this cute little town on the Mosel River. Funny thing is, I have pictures of it from the River the last time I was in Germany! Isn't it funny how life goes in circles sometimes? The first thing we did was decide to hike up the hill to the castle, Burg Landshut. I actually have a picture of this castle framed in my home in the US! It was a nice hike; I said it was to burn off calories in preparation for spaghettieis. More about that later.

We finally reached the castle, and were rewarded with a spectacular view. Also, a nice view of the rainstorm that hit us. We took shelter in the castle. It was a beautiful sight, with the fall colors and everything. We had a good time, just waiting for the storm to pass.

Spaghetti Eis. God's Gift to Man
Once the nice fall rain passed, we went back down the hill. The grape leaves were so pretty with the rain. Everything just looked so fresh and new. We walked around for a bit, took pictures, found some good deals (like a peacock scarf for me!!!!) and ended up at a cafe. Last time I was in Germany, I had spaghettieis. It is ice cream that comes out of a machine to look like spaghetti, topped with fresh strawberry sauce (to look like tomato sauce) and white chocolate shavings on top to look like Parmesan cheese. It is one of my FAVORITE things ever. I love it. It is hard to describe. You have to experience it to know how utterly delicious this is.

The next day they took me to Mass on base. It was so strange being back in an English mass; actually understanding what was being said. And looking around and knowing that I belonged, knowing that I was 'one of them'. It was nice, refreshing, but strange. After breakfast, we went for a drive. 

I stopped keeping count of the twists and turns we took. I was just enjoying the beautiful fall scenery, with the trees and the hills. It was just gorgeous. We saw a sign for a castle, and decided to find it. We never saw another sign, but finally did end up at the castle. It was a beautiful day to hike up a steep hill. But the scenery was just worth it. The sky was a perfect blue, which brought out the beautiful fall colors. It was the perfect way to spend Halloween.

We enjoyed the beautiful scenery, and then decided to walk down. As at every German sight, there is a cafe at the bottom of the hill. Sarah and I enjoyed spaetzle together and our own coffees. Dan, who does not quite understand the joy spaetzle brings to our lives, had a peppermint tea. 

That night, we had steak. It was amazing. I haven't had a good meat and potatoes meal like that since I left the states. YUM!

Going to Germany was like going home. I knew the customs, knew the language, knew the food. I had a wonderful time with Dan and Sarah, laughing a lot. I felt so good as I left; completely rejuvenated.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I see skies of blue and clouds of white; The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night. And I think to myself what a wonderful world.~Louis Armstrong

Palma de Mallorca. For me, a name synonymous with beauty and relaxation. I mainly went to see the restoration by Gaudi in the cathedral, but ended up falling in love with this place. An island in the Mediterranean, it has been inhabited by the Romans, the Moors, the French, and now the Spanish. The influence of all these different cultures is clearly evident in the architecture, the art, and the life of the people. By the Germans, it is called "A Second Germany" because of how many Germans retire there. It was so weird walking down the streets and hearing German, Castellano, Catalan, and British English. My poor brain...that night I dreamt in 4 languages. It was like my brain didn't know what to do!

It was the first trip I took by myself since being here in Spain. I was extremely nervous, but it was going to be a fast trip. Get there at about 5pm, stay out till its dark, get up for Mass the next morning, and my flight would leave on Sunday at about 2pm. I expected it to be a fast trip, and that's it. I didn't expect to be so enchanted with the island, with the architecture, and with the sea. It was the first time ever I saw the ocean. When I laid eyes on it, it was all over from there. The simple beauty of the sea just stole my heart. Also, the smell! The fresh smell is something that cannot be captured or replicated. The smell that has enticed so many people before me captivated my senses. I missed its presence the minute I left Palma.

Once I checked into my hotel, I quickly booked it down to the harbor and to the cathedral. It was almost sunset, and that is the BEST time to take pictures. That and early morning right after the sun rises are my favorite time to take pictures, because the sunshine is just so strong and beautiful. The whole evening, I was just thoroughly happy. First time I get to see the sea, and it is sunset. It is best to just demonstrate with pictures.

 I made it into the Cathedral in time before it closed to take some pictures and to see the baldechino of Gaudi. It is just simply beautiful.

After an almost sleepless night because of the snorer next door, I made it to church right as one mass was ending. I had an hour to sit, pray and take pictures. It was so beautiful, with the sun coming in through the stained glass right through the baldechino.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

Okay, so enough depressing stuff, right? Now on to other aspects of life. In addition to my first English student, Henar, I now speak English with Irene about once or twice a week, and I have another student that I will start 'teaching' the 19th, Tuesday. She is 9, so that will be interesting. But I love Henar and her parents. They love giving me apples and tomatoes, since they found out that I love organic food. When they found out that my dad is an organic farmer, they just loved that! Her dad gave me the greatest compliment one day. I was talking with Henar and her dad, and he was like, "You must listen well to the way people talk. You have picked up on the accent well." And a friend of Laura's, Suzanna, who met me when I first got here, said my Spanish has improved considerably. I need to hear things like that, because sometimes I feel like I am in a rut, Spanish wise. I just don't feel like I am learning as rapidly as I was before, but I'm sure I am.

Fall is finally starting here. The leaves are turning colors and it makes me happy. Fall is my FAVORITE season in ND. I love the colors, the smells, the weather, and especially the food. They don't really have fall food here like we do there. Squash, pumpkin, apples...I love all the ND produce of fall. Here it is chestnuts, grapes, and figs. I tried fresh figs the other day and they are delicious! Now that it is a little more chilly out, there are women selling freshly roasted chestnuts. The smell is amazing. I tried some yesterday on my way home from my lesson. They are very hearty and the taste is something you have to get used to. But now I can say I have tried freshly roasted chestnuts.

It has also been getting a little more chilly here, but not like in ND. It was a little colder here one day than during the others, and my host mother commented on it. I said, "This is normal for ND. This is perfect fall weather." She looked at me like I had horns growing out of my head. I don't think she would be able to handle our winters.

But it is eternally amusing to me to see everyone bundled up in their 'winter' jackets, with scarves and hats. They must think I'm from the moon, wearing only a cardigan over a blouse and a scarf. Come to think of it, maybe that is why I  have been getting some weird looks on the street.

One reason I like fall so much is that it inspires me more to write and do creative things. I have no idea why. I can only guess it is because the beauty around me leads me to contemplate. I have a couple ideas of stories, not about fall but about other things. I won't write them on here, but maybe I will have to start another private blog with my poetry and my stories. I mean, only if they are going to be read and enjoyed.

So my favorite class is Medieval Art of Burgos. The material we study is interesting, yes, but the teacher is also awesome. She has told me that she will help me to improve my writing in Spanish. She has also mentioned that if I have any questions, just to ask. I get scared because since I am one of only 2 international students in class that maybe I just don't understand because it is in Spanish. But she tells me to ask, no matter what; even if it is after class or via email. One day, she could tell that I was trying to figure out in my head what the heck she was talking about. So she stopped what she was saying, asked me if I understood, and explained it in simpler terms. It made my day; something so small but made my day.

In my class of Phonetics and Phonology, the professor loves giving examples and using us international students and our accents. The other day, he played certain songs, in both English and Spanish, to show that if you are used to hearing the sounds of one language, you will hear what you are used to in another. For example, in one English song, the Spanish speakers hear something entirely different, even though that is not said. I don't know if that makes sense at all. But then he also used Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail as an example. Totally awesome.

I love my Spanish Grammar: Syntax class. Not only does the teacher explain things well, but I just simply love grammar.

Literature of the Middle Ages. Love the material, but the teacher...well...the teacher is...I want to say 'Hitler in drag', but I feel like that's not nice. She is very...demanding, I guess is the right word. She is the one that told me I can't sleep in class and has not been very understanding to those of us in class who are not native Spanish speakers. But whatever. Can't win them all, right?

Okay, next post. This one will be on my trips to Astorga and Leon. And believe me, there are some good stories in there.

Home is not where you live but where they understand you. ~Christian Morgenstern

When I think about blogging, I come up with all this amazing stuff to write. When I actually sit down to do it, I forget it all. Maybe its the whole white blank box that scares me. So I hope that now, since I have started, it will be easier...

I have developed a routine here in Spain. Wake up, consider just staying in bed for about 15 minutes, and then groan and get out of my warm bed. After I catch the bus and make it to campus, I walk through the doors wondering what I will actually understand today. Somedays are really good; others are just plain horrible. Like this past Wednesday. I had stayed up the night before writing this paper for class, and had been terribly, horribly homesick all week. It took all my strength to even sit down and write in Spanish for a class that I don't really like and a professor that (I believe) doesn't like me. I got up early on Wednesday to get on campus to print my paper off. Class starts at 9 on Wednesdays, so I got on campus about 8:15. Then I find out that the room in which you buy paper to print stuff, as well as the computer room where you print said stuff, don't open till 10. I don't cuss usually, but this time I audibly said, "Shit." I worked so hard on this paper only for this to happen.

Once class starts, the teacher asks us to hand in the papers. I tried to explain to her what happened, but she didn't really seem to understand. Luckily, everyone else in the classroom did and helped explain it. She looked at me, obviously wondering if I was telling the truth, and said, "Bring it to my office after class." During class, since I was so exhausted and had been visited by the Period Fairy while in class, I dozed for like 3 minutes. After class, she asks me why I was sleeping in class. I told her that I wasn't feeling well and hadn't been sleeping, which was half true; the other truth is that her class is boring. But you can't really say that to her. I jet out to the paper room to find that the computer wasn't working and couldn't print stuff off in there. The computer room was packed and couldn't find a computer. After such a morning of frustration, I said to heck with it. I took the bus back to El Centro (my area of town). I went and bought a few books and then came home. There was no way that I was going to face the rest of the day without my computer or a good book. Luckily,  I received a package from my best friend with the new VeggieTales movie in it; it helped me so much!

So yeah. Some days, I am happy to be here, enjoying hearing and speaking Spanish. Other days I am tempted to just pack up and sneak out at night and fly home. It doesn't help that I have been having a hard time making friends. I have been trying, but 90% of them live an entirely different lifestyle than I do. They love to go out and drink and party and get drunk. The look on a French girl's face when I told her that I don't go out was classic.

Finally, I just decided that I was sick of sitting in my room all the time, feeling sorry for myself. I now have pretty much every weekend planned out till I leave. This coming weekend, October 23-24, I am going to Palma de Mallorca to see this by Gaudi. I am excited since I am going just by myself. The following weekend, the weekend of Halloween, I am going to visit an old friend, Sarah, and her husband in Germany. Sarah and I met in HS in shop class, and have been friends ever since. They are living there because he is in the Air Force (I believe). I am SO excited to see her, and visit Germany! I love Germany so much. The food is awesome and the people are great. Plus, I think it will help just seeing a familiar face. The weekend after that I think they are coming to Spain, and I will meet up with them.

The weekends after that are kinda up in the air. A friend from NDSU who is studying in London may be coming to visit Spain, and we may meet up in Santiago de Compostela. Then I may be going to visit her in London for Thanksgiving. At some point, I am going to visit my friend Tanner in France. He is an old friend who is now an English teacher there. But, the highlight of all of this is that my beloved sister and 3 of my many cousins are coming to visit me and celebrate Christmas and New Years with me. I AM SO HAPPY! I miss my sister so much, and am so excited to share Spain with all of them!

To alleviate my boredom, my beloved boyfriend sent me Civilization IV, a computer game. I am SO grateful for this. I have also been reading a lot, and probably will start taking up writing again. It is good for me to learn to be on my own and not depend on people, but this has also helped me realize how much I love my family and friends. So this whole loneliness thing is good, right?

My next post will be on aspects and events of life here, just so you have more to read! :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

4 Stories: Color

This week's topic for the 4 Stories blog of FreckledNest is color. Yay!

I. R.E.D

Anyone who knows me even as an acquaintance knows that red is definitely my favorite color. Up until I was about 17, I didn't really have a favorite color. I had always been attracted to warm colors though. Once I moved out of my parent's house, red became the color for me. I have a red backpack, red peacoat, red cups, red towels, red socks, red sweaters...you name it, I probably have it. The funny thing is though, when buying sheets and that sort of thing, I picked like a sage green. I guess subconsciously, I was picking a color to complement my color.

II. Color Personality

The funny thing is too, that when I take those color personality tests you can find anywhere, I always get red. Here is the description: "You have incredible will-power and you are capable of overcoming obstacles that would stop others. You enjoy a pleasant and colorful environment. You are capable of bursts of high energy spontaneity, though generally more "laid back". You are energetic and interested in many areas of life. You are capable of accomplishment when consciously focused and persistent."

III. Taking Notes

Ask anyone. I am not an organized person. I often lose things, only to find them tucked away somewhere when I was attempting to be organized. That is why it is so strange that I am so organized in my note-taking. I have to color coordinate my notes. It seems to help me so much more, especially when I am taking tests. If I am stuck on something, usually I just imagine how the color would have been and I can remember it!

IV. Fall

My favorite season is fall. Can you guess why? I LOVE all the colors of fall; the oranges, reds, yellows, browns...it just makes me happy every time I go out and see all the beautiful colors that exist in nature! Also, all the earthy smells too...it's just a great season!

4 Stories: Swimming

So I LOVE Angela's blog. She always has something cool to say, and it is a cool way of keeping up with her. She introduced me to FreckledNest, by Leigh-Ann (LA). I love reading her posts, seeing her pictures, and hoping that someday I can try out her craft ideas. On it she started something called 4 Stories. She picks out a theme, and you are invited to write 4 stories on that subject! I decided this would be fun to do, something to break the monotony of being in Spain. I invite you to do it too!

I. Swimming Hole

 Since my dad is a farmer, we spent the first 5 years of my life living on the farm that he grew up on, before we moved into town. I love the farm; it holds so many warm, fond memories of my father and my grandfather. Just thinking about the farm, I can smell the smells. Right as you come down the hill to the farmstead, there is this watering/swimming hole. My cousins, who at the time were troublemakers, tied a rope to the huge old tree right by the pond (Pictured above), and used it to swing and fall into the water. I always wanted to try, but didn't know how to swim. Sadly now, it is all dried up and the rope wore away by the cold harsh ND winters.

II. First Swimming Lesson

Mom and Dad took my younger sister and I to our first swim lesson when I must have been about 6. I hated it. All I remember is the FREEZING cold water and that the teacher didn't seem to be interested in teaching me. I tried my hardest, but the cold water made me freeze up (no pun intended) and I couldn't move. Finally, after the 3rd time, after both my parents tried being in the water with us, they decided it was too cold for us. And thus began my curse regarding swimming lessons. To this day, after about 8 different lessons (both by friends and by teachers) I still can't swim.

III. Hot Tub

When I was about 7, my dad joined my sister, grandparents, and I to visit his siblings in Nebraska. We were at my Uncle Dan's house, and they were all in the hot tub. I crawled in because, being a Daddy's girl, I always had to be around him. I tried to sit down like the adults, and slipped. Since I have always been pretty thin, I sank to the bottom right away. I remember seeing all these hairy legs. I wasn't too panicked at the moment; I was too interested in what this new experience was like. Suddenly, I felt myself being pulled up and a blast of air hit my face. I gasped and I think I started crying because I realized what had almost happened. Every time I get in the water now, my chest kinda contracts and I have to talk myself through it. It's just water. You will be okay. So-and-so is here and will save you if something happens. One of my fears still is drowning.

IV. Swimsuit

I think one of the reasons I haven't learned how to swim yet is the fear I have of wearing a swimsuit. I know its mandatory and important, but I just feel so... aware. I feel more aware of myself in a swimsuit than I do in anything else. Also, my ancestors come from Ukraine, which is one of the races that is known for women having mustaches and that sort of thing. I take care of myself well, but am still extremely self-conscious when I am faced with having to wear a swimsuit. I hope some day I am able to get past this; I would love to be able to swim with my own children.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A different language is a different vision of life. ~Federico Fellini

This will be an ongoing post on the idioms, expressions, and colloquialisms of the Spanish language. These are a few that I have learned during the month and a half I have been here. Enjoy!

hacer los barquitos: (literally: the make little ships) what you say when you use bread to mop of the sauce of a salad or meat.

puente: (bridge) a break, day off. Like when you have 3 days off of school or something.

acueducto: (aqueduct) very colloquial. It is when you have a long break, like Christmas Break.

El mundo es como un pañuelo: (the word is like a tissue) it's a small world.

quedarse frita: very colloquial. It is like when you are crashed while sleeping. Like after a long day.

miga: there is no equivalent in English. It is the white/center part of bread. But not like Wonder-type bread, like French bread.

comer con los ojos: (eat with your eyes) kinda like 'your eyes are bigger than your stomach'

hacerse un lío: to make a mess; to be confused; to be lost; to be in a state of confusion. I think there are many meanings to this phrase, so still learning more!

Freaky (used as a way to refer to self or someone else): unlike in the US, where this word has a negative connotation, this is used like 'geek', 'nerd', or pretty much anything the speaker wants. Like there was this guy playing a computer game on the bus, and his friend called him 'Freaky' to get his attention.

A bocadilla refers to a sandwich made out of french bread or something similar. A sandwich is a sandwich made out of 'sandwich bread' or formed bread, like we have in the States. Interesting...

Nuez (walnut): also the word for the lump on a man's throat. Yes, the apple in English. They loved that.

aguafiesta: (water-party) spoilsport. Like rain on your party.

saltamontes: ('mountain jumper') grasshopper

My favourite thing is to go where I've never been. ~Diane Arbus

For our first 'puente' (break), I decided to use a couple of those free days to visit a few more buildings of Gaudi; the Palacio Episcopal in Astorga, and the Casa Bontines in Leon. Saturday, Elise and I took the 6:35 am bus, bright and early, to Leon, and then from Leon to Astorga. On the bus from Leon to Astorga, we met 4 women pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago who are from Winnipeg! What are the chances of that?! 

We arrive in Astorga only to find that it was gloomy and cold. I was only wearing a t-shirt, a cardigan and a scarf, and thus was pretty chilly the whole day. But it didn't ruin my day! We went to the Cathedral to find that the museum didn't open till 11 (it was 10:30), as well as the Palacio. So we decided that, since a) we had time, b) I was freezing, and c) we needed to find a ladies room, it would be a good idea to go to a cafe and get some coffee. It was this cute little cafe fashioned in the Modernist style, which I have developed quite a fascination for, thanks to Gaudi. So we relaxed there till the Palacio opened.

It easily is one of my favorite Gaudi buildings. After a fire burned down the old one, the Bishop of Astorga approached Gaudi to design the new one. He designed it to be reminiscent of a medieval fortification, with numerous Gothic details. Since it was to be a bishop's palace and episcopal seat, he also has different details that refer back to the bishop's office in the Catholic Church. Such as right: each angel holds a different object that signifies a bishop's office. The one on the left, the mitre (hat); middle the cross; right the staff. Each of these was supposed to be on top of the spires of the Palacio. However, after the untimely death of the Bishop, Gaudi left the project in the hands of the committee, who blocked every one of his 'strange' designs and who made his life difficult. After this, he said he would never work with a committee again. The house that he so painstakingly designed was never lived in; after a time, it was turned into the Museum of the Pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago.

Throughout the building, you can see how Gaudi took the Gothic style, but made it his own. Once we paid to get in (it was cheap!), I saw a sign that said you can't take pictures. I was like whatever! I am here for a project, so I am going to take pictures. Plus there were other people doing it too. I was the only one who was smart enough not to use flash though. She did catch me later in the chapel, and I just pretended like I didn't know. "Oh! I'm sorry! I had no idea!"

After our time there, during which I did 'accidentally' take a lot of pictures, we hopped over across the street to the Cathedral. It is beautiful, of course. My favorite part though is the front, with the beautiful carvings and details. We went through the cathedral and the museum, and then decided to walk to the other side of town to see some of the Roman ruins. It only took us like 20 min to walk to the other side of town since it is so small. It kinda reminds me of Assisi, Italy, with the simple size and the quaintness of it. We walked through the garden where the Jewish Synagogue once stood, and then along the Roman walls. Astorga used to be a Roman fortress. Hence there are ruins of a Roman house, complete with bath and mosaics; as well as a Roman museum. Get this: the museum was built in commemoration of the 2000 ANNIVERSARY of the Roman occupation. That is a lot of years.

After walking along the wall, we went to find something to eat; also to wait till the Chocolate Museum opened again after the siesta. We ate, then went to the Roman Museum, where we paid a combined entrance for the museum and the chocolate museum. I thought it was a great deal! The museum was pretty cool, and the guy made sure we got out in time to make it to the Chocolate Museum before they closed. The chocolate museum was awesome. It smelled so good! It showed how to make chocolate etc, and had some samples of the chocolate they make in Astorga. It was delicious.

And now for a Dokia story. I decided, since we had time, that I was going to find a book in the city of Astorga (mainly for the Palacio, since they didn't have their own book). So I walked into a little corner magazine/book store. There was this old man working, talking with one of his friends. I found what I was looking for and paid for it. After I put my wallet and my new purchase in my daypack, I went to adjust it again. I ended up hooking my finger on my necklace and the chain broke. The pendant and chain fell to the floor, among a bunch of magazines. That necklace is from my grandmother, and there is no way I am leaving it. So I scrambled around, pulling magazines out right and left, looking for this little pearl pendant. The old men were just watching me, intrigued as to what this foreign girl was doing. Meanwhile, Elise, who was standing outside, started wondering what was going on. She looks inside to see me on the floor, magazines everywhere, and the old men confused. She comes in to find out what was going on, and saw the pendant on the floor by my knee. I apologized profusely to the men, put the magazines away, and, pendant in hand, high-tailed it out of there. Totally a Dokia moment. :P

But the day was just great. I think Elise and I both needed just a nice, relaxing day such as this. We spoke English with each other the whole day, and it was so nice! Also, the weather changed from cold and icky to a nice fall day. Plus, I just love small towns such as this. Ones that only take you like 20 minutes to walk across the whole town. Such a beautiful little village.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"But man does not create... he discovers." - Antonio Gaudi

It was a weekend of discovering new things, both about the world around me and about myself. Like how much I look like a Spanish woman, which means people ask me for directions. In my 3 weeks here, I have had 5 different people ask me for directions. Or what happens when you bring 4 books in your backpack, as well as a change of clothes, when you will be walking a lot. Turns out your back kinda doesn't like that so much. Also, how embarrassed one can be after tripping over someone's suitcase while you are walking, and they are too. The worst part was I apologized in Spanish, but I think he was British. Another thing I discovered was that while speaking Spanish, most people don't know if you accidentally slip in an English word into the sentence. Luckily, 'breakfast' is known around the world, and if it isn't, most people know I'm crazy.

We also discovered more about the streets of Barcelona, and how ridiculously confusing they can be. and about the works of Gaudí. I discovered how much I admire him as an architect and as a man. The way in which he could create so much symbolism in a space is amazing. He could design a building without straight lines, such as Casa Batlló. He could put so much symbolism in a building that no matter what you look at, it means something, such as La Sagrada Familia.

We left Thursday night. We bought tickets the day before to travel at night, since it is an 8 hour (more or less) trip. We left Thursday night without a place to sleep for Friday night. Of course, I was kinda freaking out. I like to have things planned out and taken care of, so it was a huge leap of faith for me. I knew that God would not let us leave without a place in store for us, but I was still really nervous. 

The bus left at 11 pm. We get on the bus to find that it is pretty full, and to find a couple sitting in our seats; or he was in my seat and she was in Alexandra's seat. Elise's was across the aisle. We had to explain to the couple 4 times, and show them our seat numbers, that they were in our spots. I knew it wasn't their spot, but they just wanted to sit somewhere where they could sleep better. But we got it all figured out. We slept a little on the way there; I am blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere, so I slept for like 6 or 7 of those hours. 

So we got off the bus at Barcelona. We stood there for a bit, trying to decide what to do. I bet we looked kinda silly, smiling and giggling: We were in Barcelona! We had 2 whole days in Barcelona, and just didn't know where to start. To help decide, we went into the station and got coffee and breakfast. A little side note: Donut in Spanish is Donut. And if you want one filled with pudding or chocolate or something, it is a Bismarck. That's right, just like in English.

After some nourishment, we were able to decide to take the metro (subway) to La Sagrada Familia. By this time, it was about 7:30 am. When we got to La Sagrada Familia, it was raining. Hard. The night before it was raining hard in Burgos, so I had been wearing my rain jacket and my beret from Italy. So I pulled those back on, wishing I had an umbrella too. I had books with me (big surprise right) and was worried about them getting wet. We saw that the cathedral didn't open till 9, so we had an hour to kill. Guess where we killed it? Starbucks. I know, I broke one of my own rules. But Alexandra LOVES Starbucks, which I guess they have in Germany, so I decided to suck it up. It was kinda nice having something familiar. So during that hour we looked on Elise's ipod touch to get directions to a youth hostel. We decided to go to this hostel to see if we could get a place to stay for the night. We had tried making reservations, but was unable to.

At about 9:05, we decided to cross the street back to La Sagrada Familia and get in line. It was still raining, but there were these little Indonesian women selling umbrellas for 5 euros next to the line. Something in life that never changes, no matter where you go: people are always there to sell things. :) Elise and I decided it would be a good investment, and it was; it rained off and on all weekend. There were times I asked God to bless that little woman, since at times it llovía a cántaros (Spanish equivalent to raining cats and dogs).

La Sagrada Familia is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. It is very difficult to describe, but I will try. It was like walking into a holy forest of stone. Gaudí himself said, "The purpose of the building is to shelter us from the sunshine and rain; it imitates the tree, as this shelters us from the sunshine and the rain. The imitation touches the elements, as columns were trees first; then we see capitals decorated with leaves. This is yet more justification for the structure of La Sagrada Familia. The...shape of the columns and their great number will give the congregation the feeling of truly being in a forest." 

In Castille, the region I am in, they call stone the 'noble material', and you can tell that Gaudí believed the same thing. Every stone was placed with meaning; every stone had a purpose. Even the statues were carved with deep emotions present. On the Passion facade, the figures almost seem to be crying. The picture at the right is of St. Peter after he betrayed Jesus 3 times. There is one of Judas giving Jesus the kiss of betrayal; the soldiers on this facade are even carved to seem cruel. It is fascinating. This whole facade recounts the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. It is so moving and beautiful.

The other 3 doorways on the Nativity facade are Faith, Hope, and Charity. Next time I go to Barcelona I will show pics! But, I love this facade, because, again, the joy is seen in the statues. They are just so happy that Christ is on Earth that they can't hide it! I just love the detail present in these too. It is so amazing. It is almost as if the emotion, the joy or sorrow, was carved into these sculptures, almost infused. You cannot go to this cathedral and see these statues and not think or believe or know that there is a God.

One of my favorite things was the Rosary Chapel, completed while Gaudí was still alive. I LOVE this chapel, as it is full of meaning. The words to the Hail Mary are carved around the whole chapel, with corresponding statues/carvings to the words. Once I noticed that, I was just in awe. Gaudí obviously lived his faith in his life, and couldn't help but transfer all that to his designs. You can tell that La Sagrada Familia was his opus, his life's work.

After visiting the museum of La Sagrada Familia and the gift shop, we decided to follow the directions we had written down before to get to the youth hostel. We were all hungry and I, for one, was just focused on not being grumpy. The whole way I was praying that God had a place for us. We found the hostel without any problems. Turned out that either she had a 6 bed mixed gender room with 3 beds free, or a 4 bed room in which we would pay for the other bed so no one else would be in there. After a discussion, we decided to go with the 4 bed one since it was about the same price and this way we had our privacy and our own bathroom.
It turned out to have a great view and was very nice. We changed clothes, put some stuff in the lockers, and then went out to find food. After lunch of pasta and patatas bravas, we took the metro to visit the Casa Batlló.

 Situated in what is called 'The Apple of Discord' (Manzana means both apple and street block in Spanish), Gaudí was commissioned to simply redo the facade and do a few other small designs to the house. He ended up designing one of the most beautiful, whimsical buildings ever created. There are no straight edges in the house, except in the attic for dispersion of light. I don't even know how to describe it. The thought that went into each doorway, each window, each material used, even each piece of glass for the mosaic: Gaudí stood across the street from the Casa Batlló to tell them exactly where to place each piece. It has been likened many times to water and anything to do with water. Such as the main light fixture in the living room, which resembles an eddy or whirlpool. It is also called 'The House of Yawns', since the balconies on the facade look like they are yawning.

By the time we went through the Casa Batlló, it was like 5pm, and we were pretty tired. We walked around for a bit, went to see the outside of Casa Milá, wandered around the area. We visited the Casa Asia, built at about the same time as the Casa Milá as a center for knowledge and getting to know the Asian culture better. Finally, we took the metro back to our hostel. We got out and then proceeded to get lost for an hour; when all we had to do was simply walk down one street a little farther than we did. It was during this time I was grateful for that little umbrella-selling woman (side note: the Spanish word for umbrella is paragua, which literally means 'for water'. I love it!)

We were so grateful to be back in our hostel. Once we got to the room, we decided that after such a long day, we needed a sangria. So we went down to the bar/restaurant to enjoy a little rest and relaxation (the sangria wasn't that good. I wanted a beer, but they had only light beers). I got on the computer to FB people to tell them we made it okay, and was totally confused by the Spanish keyboard. I get spoiled with my laptop. After a bit, we went back to the room. After a little chill/shower/reading/talking time, we crashed. As we fell asleep, there was a beautiful thunderstorm outside. It made me so happy.
I don't think I moved at all that night; I woke up in the same position/place in which I had fallen asleep. We were exhausted.

When Alexandra's phone alarm went off, I thought it was part of my dream. When Elise's watch alarm went off, I heard it but my body didn't move and my mind didn't register it. Finally, when Alexandra kept saying, "Buenos dias, chicas!" I finally woke up. We kinda took our time getting ready and getting everything together. We went down to breakfast and enjoyed our meal. We checked out and left the hostel at about 9:30. Elise wanted to see what this weird tower thing was, that we could see outside our window. (Left is a pic of it from the night before). We walked over to the tower, and upon leaving, we still couldn't decide what it's function is! Finally, we took the metro back to Casa Milá, to actually visit this time. We stopped to get a coffee at this wonderful little place (can't remember the name..something with San Francisco or something) to relax for a bit; and get directions. Barcelona is a confusing place! Probably because it's so big :P

It is beautiful, but in a different way than the Casa Batlló. Whereas the Casa Batlló is more whimsical and fanciful, Casa Milá, also called 'La Pedrera' (The Stone Quarry) seems more...well, stone-like! From the outside anyway. The inside is beautiful. It has more abstract references to nature, such as the carriage doorway to the right. It has been likened to a turtle's shell, butterfly's wings, or cell tissue. Also, the entryway's ceilings are all painted with beautiful murals. I wish I had more pictures of those; next time I guess.

First, we decided to visit the terrace/roof since the workers said that it would be closed if it rained again. I was like, no! We are not missing this opportunity! So we went to the terrace, with all the famous stairwells, chimneys, and ventilation towers. They have been likened to many different things, but I like to think that most of them had faces. I do wish that the sky wasn't so dreary and sad when we were there, it would have made picture taking that much more fun for me!

After the terrace, we went through the museum in the attic, and then through one of the apartments that is open to the public. None of the ceilings have a straight edge; everything is met in a curve. I love it!

After we went through the whole house, the girls wanted to do some shopping. I was tired and my backpack weighed as much as a small child. So while they shopped, they would leave their stuff with me. I was like, I feel like a mother. But I was okay with that. They didn't complain when we went to my stuff, so the least I could do is let them shop.

Then we went to a restaurant called TapasTapas. It. was. delicious. I loved it. Tapas are basically little servings of whatever you order. So like the mussels I ordered was perfect. It is the perfect, and cheapest, way to try a bunch of different things. I had mussels, a delicious salad of grape tomatoes, olives, and mozzarella cheese, the local manchego cheese, and we all shared paella. It was a great restaurant, and we want to go back.

Our last place we visited was Parc Güell. We were only there for about an hour and a half, and you definitely need more time to see everything. Plus we were exhausted, and the child in my backpack was gaining weight. It is gorgeous. I love how Gaudí really utilized nature and symbolism behind everything.

Finally, we headed to the bus station. After eating at McDonald's (yes, I broke two of my own rules those two days), where I had a happy meal, of course, we boarded the bus home. We met a nice teacher from Peru who was learning English. It was kinda fun teaching each other words for different things. 

There were only 9 people on the bus, so it was nice being able to stretch out and doze. We got back to Burgos at like 4 in the morning. I walked home since I live so close to the bus station; it would have been silly to pay a taxi to take me 2 blocks. As I neared my house, I could hear how many people were still in the 'party plaza' as I like to call it. I walked up to my door, only wanting to go to sleep, to find a couple making out in my doorway. I was like, okay fine. I walked up, unlocked the door while they stared at me, and just walked in. I was like there is no way that I am going to let a horny couple keep me from my bed.

A weekend of discovery, a weekend of learning, and a weekend of fun.